I have been saying ‘I don’t want kids’ since my late teens, and I think people may be starting to believe me. I am over thirty, and I’ve been married for several years, so I’m running out of time, you might say. But I don’t care. I find this interesting, considering how family- and child-oriented church life can be (How did I not get bit by the baby bug?) and I suspect that many of my friends might think it’s slightly offensive as well.
I have very few friends who are child-free (as opposed to childless, which is when you want children but can’t have them, and that is heartbreaking) and those who don’t have children yet allow that they will want them in the future. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate children, I think they’re great in small doses. But I have many close examples in my life of what it looks like to have children of your own, and I don’t like what I see. I am selfish and immature, and I am free of the rosy view many people have of babies and parenthood before they become parents. It’s a deadly combination.
I have heard horror stories, and I’ve heard normal stories that just sound horrible to me. Stories about how, after kids, sometimes you don’t get to shower every day, clean your house, cook anyone a decent meal, or hold down a paying job. I understand that for several years in your marriage, you will feel like your husband has gotten off easy, that children have not changed his life the way they have changed yours. That when you are not so exhausted that you forget sex exists, you vacillate between wishing he wanted you the way he used to before you had stretch marks, and hating him so much you wish he would never touch you again. I have seen it and I don’t want it.
Right now, I get to be the adult company for my friends with kids. Spending time with DH and I gives our friends the opportunity to talk about stuff other than their kids, and stuff they can’t talk about in front of their kids. It’s funny when I go to baby showers for my friends having their first kid, and give them sex books and gift certificates for lingerie (yes, I really do this). It’s considerate when I go to baby showers for my friends having their fourth kid, and give them gift certificates for lotion and bubble bath. I’m trying to help my friends stay in touch with themselves, the free and fun parts of themselves that still have dreams and goals and space, just for themselves.
Because I know that babies are all-consuming. They sap every once of strength, claim every bit of attention, and eclipse everything you thought you knew about yourself as a parent, a person, and a Christian. Having a baby alters you to your core. I know this, and I fear it. I fear losing my sharp edges, my keen eye, and my dangerous wit, much less my own body as I know it. But more than I fear the loss of myself, I fear the resignation to, even the welcoming of, that loss. Mothers I know tell me that I will change, that I will not mind losing myself, and I know that this is true. They say it in a condescending tone that I’m sure they mean to be comforting. It is not.
I am not incapable of nurturing; I just want to do it on my terms. I can look after DH, and he looks after me. I have plants that I love to take care of, and the plants are fostering a colony of flies I cannot seem to kill off (I have grand-entities!), so maybe when I figure out plants, I can move up to pets, and then maybe sometime around menopause, when everything is sagging on its own anyway, I’ll finally be ready for a kid.